He is very strong.
Singham might just be the best movie I've seen in months. A Bollywood cop film released last year, it's the story of the one honest cop in Goa, Inspector Bajirao Singham ('Singham' itself means 'lion'). It's actually a remake of an earlier Tamil movie, as a surprising number of Bollywood action movies are. And it's completely insane. For the western viewer, so much of it is an exercise in cultural translation, because the film is so immensely, joyously over-the-top that the inevitable question is, 'are they being serious?'. And the answer, wonderfully, is yes. The whole film is a love letter to 70s cop shows (not to mention the obvious debt it owes to the likes of Shaft), so closely observed that I was surprised no-one ever drove through a stack of cardboard boxes at speed. If you've seen Life on Mars or Ashes to Ashes, I can summarise the ethos in a sentence: 'If Gene Hunt had been born on the Subcontinent.' Of course, like Gene Hunt, it's all done knowingly - India's film industry hasn't been stuck in the 70s since... well, the 70s - but unlike Gene Hunt, the whole thing is played completely straight, and mercilessly deadpan.
The plot itself is actually interesting enough that with a quick rewrite it could stand as a grittily realistic thriller just about anywhere. Even as it is, it has points to make about corruption, public perception of the police, and where exactly the balance of power in Indian society lies. It's just that Singham chooses to approach them with more martial arts and explosions. It's very much trope central; Inspector Singham is the sheriff of his small, peaceful village, when he gets dragged into city policing in Goa (essentially, Hot Fuzz in reverse) and runs up against politics, corrupt police and organised crime. Overall, the effect is of every cop-movie cliche you've ever seen, but the setting itself makes them so novel that it's hard to stop watching. There's the inevitable 'give me 24 hours' scene, the inspirational speech, the furious chief shouting down our hero. The last one is my favourite, because it's delivered in long streams of rapid-fire Hindi, interspersed with fragments of charmingly unexpected Hinglish. Not only does the chief call him an 'utter bloody disgrace', he melds all of that into one word and practically spits it at his subject. Likewise, there doesn't seem to be an exact Hindi translation for 'cop who doesn't take bribes', so every time it comes up they default to the English 'honest police officer'.
And that's just the cliche. The stuff that isn't cliched is insane. A man gets beaten with a snapped-off length of lamp-post. There's a bit where the cops take turns kicking a deserving subject in the arse. The antagonist chews scenery every chance he gets. The thing is, though, on one level Singham is a good movie despite all of this stuff; even the inspirational speech was done well enough not to lose much in subtitles. But on another level, it's a great movie, because of all this stuff. It's unashamedly retro, cheerfully mental, bold, colourful, and a guided tour of how Hollywood tropes get assimilated and changed. For instance, not to spoil the ending, but Singham does some stuff that's a little on the dark side. But where in an American movie there might be a 'dammit, it's necessary, there's no time!' handwave, Singham never loses any sleep over it, and still gets portrayed as the uncompromised hero. The morality at work there is different, and that's fascinating to me.
This being Bollywood, we must talk about the songs. There are a couple of fairly tedious romantic ones - there's a love interest side plot, but it feels fairly tacked on, honestly. It's as if the producers knew they had to throw it in there, but just wanted to get it done so they could get back to crashing cars, an attitude of which I wholly approve. But the soundtrack more than redeems itself, because Singham has what may well be the best theme song I've ever heard, and they use it shamelessly. If you ever need to feel like an 8' tall Indian badass, this song right here is what you need.
So, this is a movie whose protagonist not only has a moustache and a pair of aviators, but actually makes them look good. If you can suspend your disbelief for a while, you'll probably enjoy it. If you can't, I'm certain you'll enjoy it.